The Tampa Bay Lightning are set to receive a late Christmas gift as winger Brett Connolly returns from Team Canada’s World Junior Championship squad to join his NHL team for tonight’s game in Montreal. The 19-year-old was able to score five goals in six games for the Canadians in the prestigious under-20 tournament over the last two weeks.
The player the Lightning are getting back should be a more mature player more than one area. Coaches for Team Canada asked the talented sniper to play with a physical edge while taking a leadership position with the team. He proudly wore the “A” and was one of Canada’s better players throughout the tournament.
The performance wasn’t lost on Lightning head coach Guy Boucher—specifically the leadership Connolly showed in Canada’s exciting 6-5 loss to Russia. “I thought he showed incredible character,” Boucher said. “I was told that when it was 6-1, he was one of the first guys to stand up and say it wasn’t over, and we know what happened after.”
“He scored in almost every game he played, but what I liked was his drive and dedication to doing the details of a winner and that’s what we’re asking of him,” the Lightning coach continued. “Coming back, we don’t want to change him or put pressure on him. Right now, he’ll replace (J.T.) Wyman, because he’s a right-hander and he’s got speed like him.”
If the Lightning get a player back who is a better teammate in the locker room and a more physical presence on the ice, then the decision to release Connolly to Team Canada will prove to be a wise one. So far so good.